A Tale of Two Back to School Nights

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Excitement and enthusiasm were in the air as teachers in my new high school in a middle class neighborhood prepared their classrooms by decorating their bulletin boards, displaying student work, and straightening desks. Welcome messages abounded, Remind.com messages were sent, and we opened our doors to meet the parents.
I have done these events for 24 years, four times a year at my former school in South Central L.A. But this year’s Back to School Night left me reflecting, and perhaps shedding a tear.
First, my new parents were fantastic. They were friendly, enthusiastic, and supportive of the new ideas I bring to the school. I knew in them I would have allies to incorporate my findings from my Fulbright exchange in Finland earlier this year. Parent after parent nodded their heads and strongly affirmed that break time was important to students, teachers, and workers in general. They were excited to hear about the summer travel programs I had prepared.
As I looked at their warm and s…

The Sensei Goes to Sacramento

Did you know that there is a blueprint for California schools? It's a road map that tells where schools are headed, and how they will get there. Check it out here.


Well now that document needs an update and the State Superintendent of Instruction, Tom Torlakson, has asked a classroom teacher to co-chair the update process of the blueprint. A teacher whose school is in South Central L.A...you guessed it. Me!

The Blueprint addresses important issues such as:
  • Educator Quality
  • Curriculum and Assessment
  • Higher Education and Secondary Alignment
  • Accountability and School Improvement
  • Early Childhood Education
  • Education Supports
  • Health, Nutrition and Physical Fitness
  • School Finance
  • Facilities and Construction Reform

Working with my co-chair Chris Steinhauser, the Superintendent of Long Beach Unified, will be a treat; I have much respect for someone who can manage a large district and avoid debacles like iPads and tech systems. His union-management agreement on teacher evaluations is a model for districts.

So why have a classroom teacher lead this initiative? Because our SSI values the opinions of those who are still in the classroom. And what will these strategies look like in the most challenging schools? 

It looks like this blog is achieving its purpose. Tom Torlakson did not forget South Central.


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